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Growing Future Artists (& Vegetables): Lessons from a Community Garden Project

The 53rd Street Community Garden

The goal of the 53rd Street Community Garden was to create a sustainable community garden with colorful artistic components and outdoor classrooms. Students would utilize this outdoor space to discover scientific exploration of plants, insects, and animals, while fostering a respect for the neighborhood.

Although this project is still pretty fresh and constantly evolving, we have seen an amazing community effort in building a space where education, cultivation, and neighborhood come together. It has been beautiful to have a place where teachers can bring their classrooms outside to plant vegetables, where community members tend to their plots and interact with the youth, and where two schools that rarely socialize now have some common ground.

We are currently working with the school on plans for developing a culinary arts program, installing a gazebo, and scheduling a community harvest event. We are excited about expanding the school/community garden model, which we’ve named Growing Great Gardens (3G), to other Milwaukee Public Schools.

The success of this project is due to much more than Arts @ Large having a good idea. It was the simple model that we use for all of our programming that made this work – listen to the community we work with, bring fresh ideas to the table, work together to build a program and find key players to execute.

Innovative ideas in education should be built on collaboration. We risk missing opportunities when we become possessive of these ideas or don’t actively seek input from all those involved in the process. As we gear up for a new school year we look forward to sustaining and expanding Growing Great Gardens, but we also are excited about the next opportunity to use the arts for community building.

Thanks to the [email protected] staff, the amazing collaborative artists involved with 3G, the neighborhood organizations, 53rd Street School, and the Milwaukee Public School District for helping this idea come to life.

Thanks to all the bloggers for sharing their emerging ideas and to my fellow members of the Emerging Leaders Council for hosting such an important dialogue!

For more information about Arts @ Large, visit our website at

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